DETROIT – Atlas Weathering Services Group aims to shorten the amount of time auto makers spend testing the durability of materials used in vehicles with four new temperature-controlled, outdoor, accelerated-testing services shown here at the Society of Automotive Engineers conference.
Atlas’ Equatorial Mount with Mirrors for Acceleration, with or without Water (EMMA/EMMAQUA) accelerated-weathering services are designed to provide increased light and radiation to accelerate the effects of natural aging that automotive and industrial materials and finishes will experience throughout their lifetime.
The controlled acceleration of the testing procedures allows for faster and more accurate evaluation of materials, which ultimately could reduce development time of new-vehicle components and materials by as much as 10%-15%, explains Laurence F. Bond, Atlas general manager-national sales.
Ultimately, Atlas’s goal is to help auto makers shorten the concept-to-production timeframe by reducing the materials-evaluation process, which can take up to three years in real-world conditions, Bond says.
The company’s 500-machine EMMAQUA field in Phoenix benefits from a hot and arid desert climate along with low humidity and plenty of direct sunlight, which provides the perfect torture environment for exterior components and finishes.
Atlas’ EMMAQUA outdoor accelerated testing array in Arizona.
The evaluation involves putting test samples onto the EMMAQUA machine and bombarding them with the reflective energy of the sun through 10 adjustable mirrors. The combined reflection of the mirrors equals about eight suns as the entire machine swivels and rotates to maintain constant direct sunlight.
Because the light energy from the mirrors is very intense, a computer is used to control the temperature and the level of the sun’s radiation on the samples. In the Static and Night Temperature Controlled systems, a blower circulates air around the samples and keeps them at a safe and constant temperature, while heating elements are used to counteract the cooling effect of the night time desert air.
This reduces the variations in results caused by clouds and bad weather, and overcomes the effects of running tests at different times of the year and in different locations. Water sprayers are used to simulate the effects of humidity in different climates.
Additionally, various temperature patterns in natural exposures can be recreated in an accelerated environment with Atlas’ Dynamic Temperature Controlled system.
The Variable Irradiance feature of the EMMAQUA array can control the intensity of solar radiation by varying the number of mirrors directly focused on the samples. This maintains natural intermittent patterns of light and temperature and allows temperature-sensitive materials such as dark-colored, heat-sensitive plastics to utilize EMMA exposures at different levels of acceleration.
All these systems can be used independently or in concert with each other to accurately recreate the desired accelerated-testing environment, Atlas says.
Headquartered in Chicago, Atlas has been conducting durability testing since 1915, when it introduced the Solar Determinator, its first weathering instrument that simulated the fading effect the sun has on fabric.